The Developmental Theories of Jean Piaget, Sigmund Freud, and Erik Erikson

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The developmental theories of Jean Piaget, Sigmund Freud, and Erik Erikson

Jean Piaget, Sigmund Freud, and Erik Erikson are all respected theorists in the study of psychology. All three have theories that help to explain why and how children develop into adolescents and adult hood. Although all three provide their own theories on this subject each theory shares similarities and differences with one another. Having a better understanding of each theory and the theorist will lend a better understanding to developmental processes that go into a child growing to an adult.

Jean Piaget is best known for his theory that suggested children think differently than adults. His theory proposed that children’s cognitive development developed in stages. The stages began with the sensorimotor stage (Birth to two years), where children are concerned with mastering concrete objects. During this process infants rely on their senses, such as touch, and their movements to learn to manipulate things close to them. An example used is that a reflex infants have is to close their hand and grasp an object when it is placed in their hand, during this stage children learn to purposefully reach out and grasp objects at will. Infants learn this process and build on it leading into the ability to throw things and when they get older they will obtain the ability to use their imagination with objects such as using an object to imitate a different one. The second stage is the preoperational stage ( 2-7years) in which the mastery of symbols happens. In this stage children obtain the ability to represent objects that are not present. A child will be able to use things like blocks to build imaginary cities, or play games like house and doctor. Certain objects take on the ability to be other objects even though the child knows that is not what they are in reality. Another part of the second stage according to Piaget’s theory, is that children do not possess correct logic because they are only able to view the world from one perspective. If you show a child a container holding sand that is long and flat, and a container holding sand that is tall and thin the child will believe that the quantity is different even If they are the same just in different containers. Children in this stage do not have an understanding of the why things work. That happens when they begin understanding operations. The third stage in his theory is the concrete stage ( 7-11 years) where children learn the ability to reason and how to work with classes, relations, and numbers. In this stage, if you show a child a similar example as the sand in the containers they will be able to understand that even though they look different the amounts are the same. Children in this stage learn the ability to see things from different perspectives and angles. With that ability their view of the world grows much greater and more profound. The final stage which is Formal operation otherwise known as abstract thinking (11years up) where children learn to master the process of thought. Similar to gaining the ability to see things from other perspectives, children in this stage gain the ability to predict how different situations or problems may turn out. “Complex ideas like "love" and values are not just repeated concepts as in the concrete stage but are abstractly constructed using multiple sources.” (Mossler, 2011, section 1.5) He used the term “little scientists” to describe children and the way they view the world. They are basically discovering and experimenting with everything that they encounter and learning how to make it work. Understanding that children are not simply small adults is critical in understanding Piaget’s theory. According to Piaget children learned the world around them by experiencing the different stages at their appropriate times. He believed that there was no way a child could skip a stage and that everyone went through them at the same strategic points...
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